Reading: Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus, Part II

From Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus, Part II

Thank you to Aaron Barlow for calling the online fallback. Much of what I was reading on the tech and distance ed boards took the attitude of Unfortunate But Necessary. Many posters and teachers went with Opportunity Knocks. But ask the students and a different sense comes out:

This was confirmed last Wednesday when I quizzed them about their loud negative reaction to the college’s closing. Few of the students like the online tools we use every day; none of them sees the move online in a positive light. They feel their educations are being disrupted and suspect that the replacement they are being offered is a sham.

And it is.


Most educators have a somewhat cynical view of student attitudes. We think that, like most of the rest of society, they have bought into the factory model of education, that they are in school only to get the degrees that will further their upward movement in society. We forget that many of them are actually interested in learning—even though they may appear to be sleepwalking through at least some of their courses. They want their degrees to mean something, to be more than just magical pieces of paper.

Our students, of course, are shoved into as difficult a situation by coronavirus as we are. This is no vacation for them, and they know it. They also recognize that the colleges and universities are lying to them through the very act of replacing their classes with online approximations—though they, too, know the lying may be necessary. They feel frustrated, for they do not want to delay their progress toward their degrees; they feel they have no choice but to accept what is happening. But they do not like it and some of them feel—and are—technologically unprepared for the new situation. Though almost all of them have smartphones, not everyone has a computer at home for writing papers.

The lying isn’t necessary; but the universities are not in a position to offer much more than online versions right now. That’s our fault. The unwelcome move online might reveal another crack in the papered-over system. We’ll need to repair things later. We’ll need to repair a lot of things Later.

But, Barlow suggests, we need to change teaching and learning Right Now.

If we work at it, it may prove better than anything we have done before, though it will not be categorizable and will not even be the online coursework we are trying to ram down our throats and our students’ throats.